Monthly Archives: December 2017

What is the Real Issue with the Appointment of the new Bishop of London?

The appointment of Sarah Mullally as Bishop of London caught many people by surprise.  After all it’s the third most important appointment after Canterbury and York.  So it poses the question, why exactly is Sarah Mullally seen as appropriate for the post?  A quick look at her credentials shows she’s had an impressive record in nursing and has been highly honored for it.  However when it comes to the Church she has served six years in local ministry as a team rector (after being a self-supporting deacon) before becoming a residentiary Canon in Salisbury.  Rather interestingly, she’s served just two years as the Suffragan bishop of Crediton in the Exeter Diocese.  This seems to suggest she’s been fast tracked for her current appointment!  So what exactly is going on here?

Now before I go further, I’d like to make clear that despite being a Minister in a Church belonging to the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches this is not a let’s have a go at the ‘Church of England’ post.  The theological basis of the Church of England is scripturally based (just check out the 39 articles).  I am indebted to having grown up in an Anglican Church where Scripture was faithfully taught, believed and applied.  Rather, I am concerned about the agenda in leadership of the Church when there appears to be a fast tracked appointment of another Bishop who seems to favour LGBT equality, whatever her position on marriage is for the moment!  I say for the moment as Archbishop Welby seems to have moved along way from the evangelicalism that he happy purported when he was first appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.

What this calls to mind is a very entertaining but thought-provoking episode of ‘Yes Prime Minister’.  Jim Hacker has only been Prime Minister short time and is grappling with his responsibility, particularly with the idea of the nuclear option.  He meets with an expert who questions when, and if, he would ever press the button.  His challenge to Hacker is that in the Cold War it would never be a case of a full frontal assault, but rather what he calls salami tactics, the enemy taking a slice by slice gradually.  The only response Hacker gives to the question as to when he would press the button as another metaphorical slice is taken is: “well I might”.

And this is what I feel is happening in the Church of England as gradually the ground is being shifted.  Some while back I read Sam Allberry’s post concerning the General Synod’s discussion on sexuality and transgender issues.  He lamented that no one really wanted to talk about Scripture and theology other than Evangelicals.  No, all the talk was about sharing experience and good disagreement!  I’ve read with interest and dismay of Laura Ashworth’s resignation from the Archbishop’s Council.  Knowing Laura as a very wise and capable Christian and having watched with interest her progress through the General Synod to this position, I found myself reluctantly understanding her decision as what’s the point of sitting on a Council or Synod if you’re just tolerated, but the moment you raise Scripture as an argument you are, no doubt, politely side-lined!  And how can there be good disagreement on Scriptural issues when people won’t engage with Scripture in the first place?

The Church of England is suffering an identity crisis, except it refuses to call it that.  It finds itself marginalised due the leadership’s departure from seeking a scriptural basis for what it does and says.  But rather than look to Scripture, as Bishop Rob Thomas was courageously saying in a recent interview, it is looking at ways it can align its self with the world while pretending that the C of E is one big happy family!  This brings to mind Paul’s warning to the Timothy: ‘For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions’ (1 Timothy 4:3).  The sad thing is that the leadership of the Church of England seem happy to comply!  But the folly of this brings to mind the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon who when preaching on Acts 17:6 where Paul and Silas are accused of turning: ‘the world upside down’ commented that it was the wrong way up to start with!

In the end, Conservative Evangelicals are being thrown scraps.  I was delighted when Wallace Benn was appointed as Bishop of Lewis and also with Rob Thomas more recent appointment.  But one gets the feeling this is just a pat on the head to show Evangelicals are acknowledged but can then be ignored!

I often give thanks in my prayers for those in the Anglican Communion who are making a stand for orthodoxy.  The question is how can the battle be won when the opposing parties are not even on the same playing field?  Standing for Scripture is a faithful and noble thing to do, but what if it has no effect on the leadership of a denomination because they no longer happy to converse about certain theological issues in Scriptural terms?  I personally pray for a future of the Church in this land (we should never make the mistake in thinking this is just a C of E problem) knowing the Lord can bring about revival in His Church.  After all: ‘if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?’ David (the psalm’s writer) has already got that one worked out: ‘In the Lord I take refuge’ (Psalm 11:3 and 1).  However, Bible believing Anglicans must beware with Evangelicals of other denominations as it can hardly be term a ‘fifth column’ when leadership is increasingly strengthening, not just a liberal approach to Scripture, but a dismissal of all scriptural theology in some of its discussions!

The Heroes’ of Faith: Moses Part 2

‘By faith he (Moses) left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.  By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them’ (Hebrews 11:27-28).

The writer of the letter has impressed upon his readers that Moses did not conform to the sinful pleasures of Egypt which surrounded him as a younger man.  Rather, he was an example of faith.  Nonetheless, verse 27 raises an interesting question, as Moses left Egypt twice.  Much ink has been committed to paper on this matter, and there are reasonable arguments for either event, but I feel it refers to the Exodus.  The first time Moses fled in panic, due the Pharaoh’s anger, therefore, this reason for leaving does not really represent an act of faith, but in my opinion, the Exodus does.  Now I know some will say Pharaoh was defeated rather than angry, but I would argue his anger manifests itself in his change of mind and pursuit of the Israelites, which then leads to the decimation of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-29).[1]   But we must not get so tied up in these arguments that we miss that Moses’s motivation came from: ‘seeing him who is invisible’ (v27) which is probably a reference to Moses’s encounter with the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-4:16) – and this means his focus was on the Lord and it was he who motivated him.

But perhaps the most incredible act of faith for Moses was the keeping of the Passover.  The Lord had given detailed instructions of how his people were going to be preserved and saved (Exodus 12:21-28). And even though Moses had seen the Lord at work through the plagues, he might doubt, perhaps, as to how putting a bit of blood round the door post was going to protect families from the forewarned death coming upon their firstborn?  Yet, as Moses demonstrated trust in this promise, and obediently followed the Lord’s instruction, he brought about the protection and salvation of God’s people!  John Calvin sums up the extent of Moses’s faith.  ‘It could seem absurd that Moses set up a few drops of blood as a remedy for the vengeance of God, but he was content with the word of God alone and had no doubt that the people would be exempt from the plague which was coming upon the Egyptians.’[2]   Now, that is living by faith!

The example of Moses must have been a tremendous encouragement to these Jewish Christians. He gave up so much to stand with God’s people.  They could relate to this, as they had endured hardship and struggle, and had even had their property confiscated in their stand for Christ (10:32-34). But once again, Moses only got just a glimpse of his reward!  In Deuteronomy 34:1-7 he views the Promised Land from Mount Nebo, but never actually sets foot in it.

In conclusion, Moses – like others in this chapter – saw only from a distance what had been promised (v13), but never doubted that he would receive it!

[1] The arguments concerning Moses departure from Egypt are rather helpfully summed up by F.F. Bruce when he writes: ‘Some commentators, however, have preferred to see here a reference to Moses departure from Egypt at the time of the Exodus.  One argument in favour of this view is the statement that “he endured, as seeing him who is invisible”, which might be understood as an allusion to his experience at the burning bush.  Against it, however, is the consideration that reference to the Exodus here, before the institution of the Passover in verse 28, would be out of its natural order, as well as the consideration that fear of the king’s wrath would be irrelevant to this later departure from Egypt, since the king and his people like then urged Moses and the Israelites to get out as quickly as they could.’  F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Printing Company, 1964), 322-3.
[2] John Calvin, The Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews and the First and Second Epistle’s of St Peter, Calvin’s Commentaries (Edinburgh, Oliver and Boyd, 1963), 179-180.

Want to listen to a sermon on this passage? What’s so Special about Someone who gave up the Easy Life?